It’s 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. After a brief respite involving a delicious home-cooked meal and nonstop cuddles with my dog, I’m about to begin my 30-mile trek down I-40 back to Chapel Hill.
I start my car absentmindedly, queuing up my music on Spotify when the blaring radio stops me dead in my tracks. The radio is switched to 88.1 WKNC, N.C. State’s student-run station.
A Raleigh native such as myself knows, Sunday mornings on WKNC are dedicated to Geet Bazaar, a specialty show that plays a wide variety of music originating from South Asia – Bollywood songs, qawwalis and folk tunes – the music my grandmother loved.
I instantly feel a pang in my chest and a knot in my throat. The next thing I know, a stream of tears starts down my face as I sit in my driveway letting the sounds of Bollywood fill my running car.
My grandmother died in December of 2021 over winter break, after a cancer diagnosis two months prior. Her bout with cancer was quick and brutal. I returned to Chapel Hill for my spring semester filled to the brim with grief, trying my best to keep going despite the permanent void in my life.
It’s true what they say — grief hits you in waves.
Grief knows no boundaries. It can attack you at work, in the middle of class, in your parked car while you listen to the radio. The first few months after my grandmother’s passing, it was the obvious trigger words – "cancer," "chemotherapy," "tumor" – that led to a full-blown paralyzation of grief. But as time passed, I noticed that my waves of grief would come when I least expected it, and sometimes not even for any clear reason.
I’ve lived with my grief for the entirety of 2022 and I want to share the things I’ve learned and unlearned.
First off, your grief is yours – no one else’s. Somehow our silly little brains can make us feel like we’re an imposter to our own emotions. However you feel your grief is valid, and it’s important to allow yourself to feel it however strongly you need to.
I’m a big crier and spent a lot of time invalidating myself after the death of my grandmother. I told myself that it was too dramatic to cry as much as I did over a grandparent. If you cry a lot, or not at all, the way you feel grief is uniquely yours. There’s no right way to grieve.
There’s no set timeline for healing. And truth be told, it never goes away. I will carry the loss of my grandmother with me for the rest of my life. But day by day, it gets easier to manage.
Some days are harder than others, but healing happens every day. You can't ever fully get over grief, but you learn to get on with it, moving forward rather than moving on.
Figure out how you can express your grief, whether it’s through art, music or writing. I’ve found that talking about my grandmother with another person is how I best express and process my grief.
I love telling people about my grandmother because it gives me a chance every day to think of her, even if it makes me sad.
And finally, in moments of overwhelming sadness, know that it’s a reminder of love persevering. The intense loss is because of a great love. When I feel my sadness coming on, I take a moment to feel it thoroughly, not fighting it and acknowledging that every tear that falls from my eye is proof of my love and her love.
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